Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Brian Culbertson is and always has been all about his music. Whether it be his early individually produced and recorded offerings or his later more collaborative releases, it has been his music that has set him apart. Suffice to say that, of late, Brian has had his ups and downs. Yet, an enforced change of label plus problems with his previously state of the art website has not detracted from the constantly high standard that Brian brings to his live performances. This time, courtesy of Culbertson fan extraordinaire Lisa Taylor, we are able to provide a snapshot of his performance at Kimball’s East in Emeryville, CA, May 6 to May 8 and, in addition, an insight into his incredible fan base.
Brian is not alone in having a loyal and sometimes fanatic band of followers but, over the last eighteen months, Lisa, who came late to Culbertson’s music, has traveled far and wide to hear him play. Enraptured by his contribution to the 2003 Dave Koz Xmas Tour, she was inspired to follow him through 2004 to venues as far apart as Chicago and Oakland with several other places in between. Not only that, she has assumed a pivotal role in the excellent, but currently off line ‘fans forum’ that will be up and running again just as soon as BC gets the new website together this summer.
The connections made through this ‘fans forum’ have afforded opportunities to meet up with other Culbertson fanatics and to collaborate with them in showing support for Brian. A great example of this togetherness was demonstrated when BC fans, Lisa, Carole Lynn, Phyllis, Mitch, Janine and Wayne, representing different cities throughout the United States, came together earlier this year to create a fan based t-shirt. They wanted something they could wear to show solidarity and that would display BC’s unique smoothness on the keyboard and funkiness with his trombone. More than 30 of Brian’s closest most dedicated fans purchased this exclusive fan t-shirt to wear at Brian’s performances.
2005 has seen Lisa’s tour itinerary ramp up even more as she travels the country with other fans and family members alike, taking every opportunity to see Culbertson perform.
Consequently, when Culbertson kicked off his stint at Kimballs, Lisa was there to see both him and his band which this year has the additions of 22 year old sax sensation Eric Darius, Brian’s dad Jim Culbertson on trumpet and former ‘Az Yet’ lead vocalist Marc Nelson. As well as performing the best from his back catalog, Culbertson was also providing a pre-release peak of his new recording, It’s On Tonight that is due out on July 26th. On the romantic title track, it will be Nelson handling the vocals along with Will Downing in a combination that promises to be a highlight of the smooth jazz year.
In fact, on that first night, Darius was out of town in Bakersfield, CA opening for David Benoit, so his sax slot went to the ubiquitous Jeff Kashiwa who did a great job as stand in. It’s On Tonight, in its pre-release billing, has been described as one of Culbertson’s most sensuous releases to date and when he performed the track, ‘On My Mind,’ this hype was confirmed. Brian always plays well to the female members of his audience and with ‘On My Mind,’ one of the sexiest songs that he has ever composed; he was again wooing the women in the house. His sensual moves just made them holler and from the chatter in the audience it was clear that they liked what they saw and heard. With Culbertson connecting with his material like never before, he turned up the sex appeal a few notches from the more reserved demeanor he displayed throughout his 2004 touring season.
No Culbertson gig would be complete without his trademark horn sessions where Brian switches keyboard for trombone and plays along with trumpet and sax. Predictably, both with Kashiwa Friday and Darius for the remainder of the shows, the horn section brought down the house. The Culbertson band with Jorge Evans on guitar and Felix D Kat on drums provided awesome support throughout and, in the intro to the horn session, Eddie Miller on the keyboards and the legendary Mike Logan on Hammond organ cooked up a storm with their unique funk combination. It sounded like someone had just let James Brown’s house band in the door.
Turning to several of his previous releases, Culbertson peppered the set with old favorites. ‘Get It On’ from Nice & Slow, ‘Say What?’ from Come On Up plus ‘The Secret Garden,’ ‘Back In The Day’ and ‘Something Bout Love’ all from the Somethin’ Bout Love CD were included to great effect and unanimous audience approval.
The show closed with Brian’s wedding song, ‘Our Love,’ also from the Come On Up CD. At both the Saturday and Sunday shows, Eric Darius took this already beautiful song to another level with his sensational sax playing and on stage presence. Darius is certainly going places quickly and his current CD, Night On The Town, is one to watch.
Some folks might wonder why there are fans that go to multiple concerts. Who better to answer that question than Lisa Taylor who was at Kimballs for all three days, and all six shows of the Culbertson visit. The way she explains it, she takes something different from each and every performance. Each skit may be similar but the musical parts are quite different. Brian may play one song a certain way then change it around for the next performance. She now sees and hears more than Culbertson simply playing. She has attained a new level of listening and enjoyment of the music. With fans like Lisa, live music is indeed in safe hands and with a new release like It’s On Tonight, Brian Culbertson is set to reconfirm his iconic status in the smooth jazz market.Posted by Denis Poole at June 10, 2005 7:29 AM